LSAT time management.
December 7, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Taking the LSAT on Saturday. I still frequently have a hard time finishing the logic games section in 35 minutes. Help me select from among three styles of time management.

There's already a general question about logic games time management in AskMe, but this one is more specific.

I generally do well (nearly perfect) with the logic games given a little more time than is actually available per game (8:45). If I have ten to eleven minutes, I can solve most problems easily. Of course, I don't have that much time. Here are the strategies I'm considering:

1) Attempt all four problems, stopping work at 8:15 or so on each problem and moving on. Obvious downside: I have to sink time into setting up each problem, and that time might be better spent completing questions on a game I've already set up.

2) Attempting the problems sequentially and working methodically to ensure each answer is correct. Obvious downside: I don't know if there are easier problems later that I won't get to try; I might end up with fewer correct answers overall.

3) Looking over problems briefly and trying to guess which one is the hardest, putting that one off. Obvious downside: I could guess wrong, and I'd have to eat up a minute or two of precious time reading ahead.

What are your experiences with the techniques above? Anything particularly disastrous or particularly helpful?
posted by thehandsomecamel to Education (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It really depends -- what score are you shooting for? What are you currently testing at?
posted by ifranzen at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2010


I did the last combined with the second and it worked well for me. I went sequentially but as soon as I realized the problem was a bad one, I moved on, did the others and went back.

For help deciding-the games fall into categories-sequencing, matching, and a couple others-google it you can probably find it. Identify which of the types are your strong and weak areas and you should be able to identify with some accuracy which problem is going to be a real bitch for you without having to grid it out. That and narrow it down further by identifying the problem with the least amount of concrete information. That's usually the worst one. When I took it, my experimental section was logic games and I thought I'd lost my damn mind. The problems were freakin' impossible. I was so relieved when we opened the next section and it was more games-that was my tipoff that the nightmare section had been experimental since the second game section was actually doable.

I tutored for the LSAT for two years while working my way through grad school. It's been a few years but feel free to memail me if you have additional questions or need clarification on my comment, I might be able to help. Good luck on your test!
posted by supercapitalist at 1:21 PM on December 7, 2010


I like option (3)
posted by jchaw at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2010


It really depends -- what score are you shooting for? What are you currently testing at?

So far I've been scoring in the high 160s and low 170s. I'm really looking for a score above 170, because my UGPA is on the very low end of acceptable for the schools I'm looking at.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2010


Pro tip: do the questions out of order - acceptable list first, then MUST be true/false, then POSSIBLE as the last. Use your answers from the other questions' answers to answer the MUST/possibles.

elminate the most obviously wrong answers in the acceptable lists first.

do the game time that you are best at first and worst at least.

all questions are worth the same points, so answer the easy ones. Better to get 3 easy in a minute than 1 hard one in a minute.

/taught L.sat for years.
posted by k8t at 1:37 PM on December 7, 2010


And to add - identify the game type and the question types before you start the game. Majority acceptable list will be easiest without much setup.
posted by k8t at 1:38 PM on December 7, 2010


You're going to end up setting up all four either way, there's virtually no chance that you won't even get to the last question. So don't avoid anything on that basis. Agree with, if you think you're going to be short, picking out the easiest question types to do first, but if you find yourself hitting the amount of allowable per-question time on anything, MOVE ON. I got killed--well, okay, I lost a couple points, but it felt like murder--by not moving on quick enough on one that just ran a little over what it should have taken and then running short of time on the few questions at the end that should not have been that hard.

Better to miss the questions you do earlier that you're taking longer on and more likely to miss anyway, than to arrive at the end to discover a couple questions that you *should* be able to answer without trouble that you end up missing because you don't have sufficient time for them.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2010


Pro tip: do the questions out of order - acceptable list first, then MUST be true/false, then POSSIBLE as the last. Use your answers from the other questions' answers to answer the MUST/possibles.

Interesting. That jibes with my experience -- I often get stuck on the POSSIBLE questions and spend more time on them than I should.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 1:59 PM on December 7, 2010


When I took it, my experimental section was logic games and I thought I'd lost my damn mind. The problems were freakin' impossible. I was so relieved when we opened the next section and it was more games-that was my tipoff that the nightmare section had been experimental since the second game section was actually doable.

Ah, jeez, I hadn't even considered that. Thanks for mentioning it -- that will probably save me a test-day psych out.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2010


Hi again. On the computer now.

Yes, for higher than 165 scores, doing the questions in a particular order makes a world of difference. (FWIW, the jump from the 160s to 170s is often a matter of familiarity with question types and strategy in timing, rather than practice or knowing content. I say this as an LSAT teacher of 8 years.)

If you do the acceptable lists first, you're giving yourself a wealth of information for the MUST be trues and POSSIBLE questions - especially in a game that you don't have a good grasp on.
posted by k8t at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2010


FWIW #2 - they don't do an experimental section anymore. Rather they place experimental questions throughout. Trying to predict what's experimental is dangerous.
posted by k8t at 2:05 PM on December 7, 2010


Three things. One is that Logic Games are all about setting up your master sketch to include as much info from the rules as possible. If you front-load that and make sure you've made every possible deduction before tackling the questions, the questions will be cake. I'm at the point now where I can do even three/four star games in about 4-5 minutes, and the trick is all about making as many deductions as possible right off the bat. After every rule, ask, "Ok, what else could this rule mean? What else? How does this rule affect earlier rules?" And so on. Two is that the points are in Logic Reasoning, not Logic Games. Everybody wants to get perfect in Logic Games but if you miss one or two you'll be okay - just make sure you make up for up in Logic Reasoning. Third is that the test is five days away. Any significant change in strategy is actually a bad thing as you probably don't have enough time between now and then for it to make an improvement and, if anything, it could hurt you. What type of games do you have trouble with? Matching? Distribution? Hybrid? How are you with formal logic?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:25 PM on December 7, 2010


@ k8t - That is such a better system than chucking a whole extra section at you, I didn't know they'd changed that, thanks for the heads up. The previous system was like being tortured for a whole section-you would swear that you'd suddenly dropped in IQ 20 points or something and would be sweating and freaking out by the end of the section.

And to the OP-I 100% agree with k8t on that-guessing what is experimental (particularly under the new format) is dangerous and a time waster. Just plow through and do your best on all the questions, even if your best is moving on and coming back if you have time. Time management and identifying what kind of question you are looking at was worth probably on average five points or so in the scores of most of my students, particularly if they were higher scorers to begin with and that's the difference between safety schools and reach schools for a lot of people.

Also, in my experience, logic games are a bear for a lot of people. Don't freak yourself out. The fact that you can consistently do them (even slowly) probably puts you ahead of a lot of test takers already. Last tip and I'll shut up-I took a game that I'd done successfully before, easy to moderate skill level with me that morning and did it before going into the test. The warm up helped me. YMMV.

Again-good luck Saturday.
posted by supercapitalist at 2:38 PM on December 7, 2010


I used to tell my students - you could totally not do the logic games and still get a 160. It is only 1/4th of the whole test.
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on December 7, 2010


The LSAT does *not* intersperse experimental questions throughout the test.

From the LSAC:
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker's score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

This was the case as of June and this is still what the website says, so I'd see no reason to believe it's changed.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:46 PM on December 7, 2010


Hmmm... last time I taught LSAT (early '09? late '08?) they were changing the experimental section rules.
posted by k8t at 2:59 PM on December 7, 2010


The October test included 4 scored sections and 1 experimental section.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:26 PM on December 7, 2010


One is that Logic Games are all about setting up your master sketch to include as much info from the rules as possible. If you front-load that and make sure you've made every possible deduction before tackling the questions, the questions will be cake. I'm at the point now where I can do even three/four star games in about 4-5 minutes, and the trick is all about making as many deductions as possible right off the bat. After every rule, ask, "Ok, what else could this rule mean? What else? How does this rule affect earlier rules?" And so on.

Right, obviously. If my diagrams were perfect every time to begin with, I'd be set. ;-) Often, I find that I'm overlooking some key inference that doesn't jump out at me until after I've started the questions. But this is certainly the approach I try to take.

Two is that the points are in Logic Reasoning, not Logic Games. Everybody wants to get perfect in Logic Games but if you miss one or two you'll be okay - just make sure you make up for up in Logic Reasoning.

Yeah, my strategy at the moment looks something like this:

I know that I consistently miss 0-2 questions on the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections, and I always finish them with time to spare. Generally no more than three wrong from those sections taken all together; occasionally as many as 5.

I need a fairly high score to be competitive (because I was, um, a less-than-diligent undergrad), so even if I do perfectly or nearly perfectly on LR, I still have to do fairly well (say, three perfect or nearly-perfect games) on the Analytical section. That's why I'm concentrating on the games section.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 3:37 PM on December 7, 2010


The October test included 4 scored sections and 1 experimental section.

Cool. Do you remember about how long the whole process took? Obviously it's more than the sum of the section times. I've read 6-7 hours -- was that your experience?
posted by thehandsomecamel at 3:48 PM on December 7, 2010


I didn't take the test, I just have access to the questions on the test.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:02 PM on December 7, 2010


I took it a while ago, but it looks the same as before. It took me just under 6 hours, and I had lots of chilling time in the middle because I finished every section other than the logic games way early.
posted by SMPA at 5:17 PM on December 7, 2010


Realized I didn't answer this part of (Arsenio)'s question:

What type of games do you have trouble with? Matching? Distribution? Hybrid? How are you with formal logic?

I used the PowerScore Bible to study, and I feel like I'm generally very confident with the main types of games they discuss: linear games, grouping games, and "pure sequencing" games, mostly. I think I was actually overconfident when I finished that book, because when I started using practice tests from LSAC I realized that every test contained at least one type I didn't have much practice with.

For example, there's a type of problem that comes up over and over again in which there are multiple "rounds" -- games dealing with rankings after multiple athletic competitions, or dealing with business hierarchy after rounds of promotions. Those really took me by surprise. I've started developing strategies for dealing with them, but they're still sort of diagram-heavy and time-consuming.

So I guess I feel pretty confident with any type of game I've seen a sufficiently similar model for before, but new twists (like the multiple rounds games) tend to slow me down. That doesn't make me sound like a very agile thinker, but that's the truth. ;-)
posted by thehandsomecamel at 5:53 PM on December 7, 2010


If you want to post one of the games you're having difficulty with, or MeMail me, I could maybe try to give some pointers and sketch out a plan for encountering similar problems.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:57 PM on December 7, 2010


6-7 hours is fair if you're in a big room.

I took it once with hundreds and it took all day. Once with 8 in a room and it was just the morning.
posted by k8t at 5:57 PM on December 7, 2010


Ultimately, the LSAT is a standardized test and so all games will, over time, start to look the same - or at the very least, very similar.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:59 PM on December 7, 2010


Here's an example from the September 1995 test available from LSAC:

Within a tennis league each of five teams occupies one of five positions, numbered 1 through 5 in order of rank, with 1 as the highest position. The teams are initially in the order R,J,S,M,L, with R in position 1. Teams change positions only when a lower-positioned team defeats a higher-positioned team. The rules are as follows:

Matches are played alternately in odd-position rounds and even-position rounds.

In an odd-position round, teams 3 and 5 play against teams positioned immediately above them.

In an even-position round, teams in positions 2 and 4 play against teams positioned immediately above them.

When a lower-positioned team defeats a higher-positioned team, the two teams switch positions after the round is completed.


So this game threw me a little bit, because although it's about linear ordering, it's also about multiple iterations of ordering. A sample question:

If after exactly three rounds M is in position 4, and J and L have won all of their matches, then which of the following can be true?

A) J is in position 2.
B) J is in position 3.
C) L is in position 2.
D) R is in position 1.
E) S is in position 3.


So at first I tried to diagram this. I went so far as to draw something that looked like this:

_ _ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ _

_ _ _ M _


But once I actually started looking at it, I realized that if J had won all its games, then (A), (B), and (D) obviously couldn't be true, because J must be in position 1. So then I gave up on diagramming and just kind of imagined L moving up the board, which led me to conclude that (C) could be true.

Anyway, that's a long example, but the point is that my initial setup diagram, which looked like this:

R J S M L
1 2 3 4 5

didn't seem to give me much information, because all the rules were about future iterations.

Anyway, that's the kind of thing I've run into where the diagramming techniques I'd developed using the PowerScore Bible left me kind of adrift. Any thoughts on how one might approach that sort of problem to narrow down the possibilities before you start?
posted by thehandsomecamel at 7:37 PM on December 7, 2010


1995? Dude - don't worry about such old games.

1. You're taking the December test. Look at Feb-Oct. You have 3 tests from this cycle to study from. Last time I looked, 2/4 game types remain constant in a test cycle.

2. I haven't tutored/taught L.SAT since I had a kid, so I haven't reviewed any test newer than October '08, but based on very intimate knowledge of all games sections ever, I can tell you that this is a pretty unusual game. I wouldn't harp on it too much because of that.

3. New if questions are the most time consuming BUT if done before could be/must be true, can pay off.
posted by k8t at 8:05 PM on December 7, 2010


PS, I'd need paper and pencil to do this, but based on the key rules, there are 3 possible scenarios. Focus on the most impactful rules and go from there.

Sequencing games - 90% of the time - have 2 or 3 options based on key rules and identifying and filling out these scenarios is a major time saver. (and IMHO not a skill developed the week of...)
posted by k8t at 8:09 PM on December 7, 2010


Also don't forget this:

- only do what is required to answer the question. Even tho it is mentally satisfying to finish it out - it is a waste of time. Go home and do a crossword! You did that going too far thing in this example question. After each step in your new if sketch (which should be numbered clearly - NO ERASING or writing on master sketch - you may need the info in your new sketch for a must be/could be true elimination) - then go to your question and say 'can I answer this now?' I used to hit people's hands with a pencil to get them to stop playing. Big time waster.

- remember that an answer is either true, false, or possbile and you're looking for one of those. As you go A-E, chant true, false, possible and cross out those that aren't what you want.
posted by k8t at 8:15 PM on December 7, 2010


Well, this makes me feel dumb, but... are this year's LSATs released already? Where would I get them? I've been working from the LSAC preptest books, which tend to have somewhat old tests.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 8:17 PM on December 7, 2010


I worked at a test prep company that got the test about 2 months later and we released it to students with explanations a week before the next test.

they also allow for downloads (or at least the did in 08 when I retired) of the last test by those that took the last test.

I'm pretty certain it is available illegally on the internet too.
posted by k8t at 8:21 PM on December 7, 2010


Now I'm feeling slightly foolish -- I didn't realize that the books of tests go in chronological order. I bought the first and second ones and am therefore doing rather old tests.

Will have to do some googling and see if I can dig up more recent tests.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 8:34 PM on December 7, 2010


New if questions are the most time consuming BUT if done before could be/must be true, can pay off.

So where would you rank this in the list you described previously? Something like: acceptable list; if questions; must be true/false; possibles?
posted by thehandsomecamel at 8:37 PM on December 7, 2010


Well, the old tests can't hurt.

Games changed a lot in 02-03 (well, noticeable... But not dramatically.)

Reading comp got harder in 05ish (easiest thing to make harder) and added a GMAT-like comparative reading in 06 or so.

Logical reasoning ebbs and flows. In 07-08 when I retired inference and flaw type questions were on an upflow and strengthening and weakening were in a down cycle after having dominated most of the early 00s. Like I said, I don't know what's up now.

Kaplan had a L.SAT podcast with the awesome Bob Verini the day after the test. It was super inside baseball and probably of no interest to students. However, they do a lot of this 'what are the trends' talk. I wouldn't waste time on it for this cycle, but if you retake in February, it might be helpful.

FWIW, I considered myself an abnormally involved/interested L.SAT teacher and did a lot of high scorer private tutoring. This sort of interest in trends and stuff is not something that (in my experience), the average instructor would share with you.
posted by k8t at 8:45 PM on December 7, 2010


yes - acceptable list, new ifs, must, possibles. New sketch for new ifs, clearly numbered.

chant true, false, possible (or write T/F/P) for each answer.

clearly rewrite each original rule at top so that it etches it on your brain a bit and you have a reference spot.

I don't do the rules in order when elminating. I do the most visually obvious 'No N and K in same fishbowl.'
posted by k8t at 8:49 PM on December 7, 2010


oh, and lots of new ifs means time consuming. Unless it is a game type you're awesome at or has a lot of questions, leave for last.
posted by k8t at 8:50 PM on December 7, 2010


Awesome. Thanks so much for the advice. I'll road-test it today and tomorrow and see if I can incorporate it into my routine.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 8:53 PM on December 7, 2010


Good luck.

take it on Saturday and consider retaking in February. Schools will look at an updated score.
posted by k8t at 8:58 PM on December 7, 2010


Hey, back.

What k8t said. Those kinds of games don't show up on the test anymore - or, more accurately, a game like that hasn't been on the test in a few years. So don't worry about studying those and concentrate on newer games. It sounds like you might need a newer or different book - there are more game types than your book describes. I also agree with k8t that you should take in February as well. If you are using an older book, you may find that the Reading Comp has gotten more difficult.

I do disagree with k8t about when to do the "if" questions. I usually do the acceptability and must be true/false questions first, because those can be answered by checking the rules and/or initial sketches. I then do all of the "if" questions next, because with a good initial sketch they are very easy and, most importantly, the new sketches of possible scenarios will help you answer "could be true" and "all who could be ___" questions. They also can help you figure out new deductions that you may have missed. Always save rule change questions until the very end, as they are typically the most time consuming and hardest.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:56 AM on December 8, 2010


Oh, wait, now I see what k8t is saying. Do "if" questions early in a specific game, but if a game has lots of "if" questions, save that game for later. I agree with that, very good advice.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:59 AM on December 8, 2010


This question has gotten me in the groove to teach LSAT again. ;)
posted by k8t at 6:06 AM on December 8, 2010


hey thanks for asking this! was very helpful for me (posted similar question before, but previously doing much worse than you). I just scored a 21/24 on a section in 35 minutes- big overnight improvement for me- hope to repeat that on test day- and I tried to focus on active reading of the possible answers while trying to make the deductions instead of focusing on making as many deductions as possible before looking at possibilities- that helped me a lot. before i was looking at answers a bit while coming up with deductions initially, but not with as much focus.
posted by saraindc at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2010


UPDATE: Brutal.

I didn't know until after the test that the experimental section is always 1, 2, or 3. So I did an LG section on section 3 and thought, "Well, that went really well!" And then I opened up section 4 and found it to be so hard that I thought, "Well, this must be the experimental section. I mean, these questions are insane!" And so, despite all the good advice here, I failed to triage effectively. And it did not go well.

Lesson learned.

I guess I'll wait to see what my score was, but a retest in February may end up being a good idea.

Anyway, thanks to all the folks who chipped in with advice. It all worked splendidly on my experimental section! ;-)
posted by thehandsomecamel at 3:00 PM on December 11, 2010


FINAL UPDATE: 173 overall, and missed 5 on the logic games section. Still ran out of time, but did manage to minimize the losses somewhat using supercapitalist and k8t's suggestions about taking questions out of order and moving on from hard questions. Thanks to all who contributed to this thread.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 3:07 PM on January 6, 2011


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